December 20, 2011

Florida Governor Sees Opportunity in Embry-Riddle's Research Park (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
One day hundreds of jobs may be linked to the $4.5 million the governor targeted to assist Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in its development of a research and technology park off Clyde Morris Boulevard. Scott has made jobs and economic development his top priorities. But in seeking to promote economic development in Florida, Scott is tying job growth to higher education. His budget request for the ERAU research park will promote Volusia County as an aerospace research center, a sensible strategy for helping to fill the vacuum created by the end of NASA's space shuttle program.

The Space Coast and Volusia County are working to develop new aerospace technologies for the 21st century, and the private sector has to be along for the ride. Several companies have expressed interest in locating at Embry-Riddle's park, but there is little to show prospective tenants for now but land. State money will change that. The $4.5 million would help ERAU clear land, build roads and put up signs in the spring, according to John Johnson, university president.

Embry-Riddle is home to one of three test facilities in the country for the Next Generation Air Transportation System. The satellite-centered air traffic control project is expected to improve safety and cut delays and fuel costs by giving air traffic controllers and pilots more accurate information on plane locations and weather conditions. The U.S. is in a "space race" with Europe to come up with such an advanced air-traffic control system. And Embry-Riddle is a leader in the U.S. effort to win that race. The park could help attract companies seeking to work on NextGen and other aerospace programs, possibly including NASA-related projects. (12/14)

Two Florida Small Businesses Win NASA Phase-2 SBIR Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 85 small business proposals to enter into negotiations for Phase II contract awards through the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. NASA will award the contracts to 79 small high technology firms in 27 states. These competitive awards-based programs encourage U.S. small businesses to engage in federal research, development and commercialization.

The programs also enable businesses to explore technological potential, while providing the incentive to profit from new commercial products and services. The Florida winners include Gainesville's Interdisciplinary Consulting Corp. for a MEMS Skin Friction Sensor, and Winter Park's BEAM Engineering for Advanced Measurements for Achromatic Vector Vortex Waveplates for Coronagraphy. (12/20)

Editorial: U.S. Needs to Revamp National Security Plan (Source: AOL Defense)
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-MD, says the U.S. needs to devise a new national security plan in the face of massive cuts. "To keep our country safe and prosperous, we need to remain on the cutting edge of technological innovation and production, ensuring our leadership in the global economy," he writes. (12/20)

FAA Seeks New Leader After Babbitt's Resignation (Source: Politico)
The Federal Aviation Administration is searching for a new leader since the resignation of Administrator Randy Babbitt. Top candidates include Deborah Hersman, the leader of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Michael Huerta, the interim FAA administrator. (12/20)

Companies Test Aerospace Technology at Spaceport America (Source:
Spaceport America in New Mexico serves as a popular spot for aerospace companies testing new technology. This month, Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace tested its STIG A reusable suborbital rocket technology there. Lockheed Martin plans to test its Reusable Booster System program at the spaceport. (12/20)

Will Stratolaunch Serve a Secret Military Demand? (Source: Transterrestrial Musings)
While last week’s news about the new privately-funded air-launch system was exciting, many industry observers have been scratching their heads over aspects of it that don’t seem to quite add up, from both business and technical perspectives. Given the market limitations and complications of air launch, the market for this vehicle has to be one that a) doesn’t currently exist and b) demands the flexibility in launch azimuth, latitude and longitude to allow rendezvous with a target in a single orbit.

Stratolaunch allows a stealth launch, with no immediate knowledge of the trajectory or target. So if that’s the mission for this system, what might the payload be? The Air Force's X-37 could be deployed by Stratolaunch. It would be able to do a close-up inspection, on short notice, of any satellite in low earth orbit. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to come up with other things it might do, given appropriate manipulators, tools and motivation. (12/20)

Stratolaunch Would Have Runway/Taxiway Issues in Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Stratolaunch carrier aircraft will be built an tested at the Mojave Air and Space Port. However, the word among Mojave insiders is that the taxiways there can’t handle an aircraft of that size. Thus, the hanger will have to be built right off the runway. The carrier aircraft will have a gross weight of more than 1.2 million pounds, a wingspan of 385 feet, and the capacity to carry a booster weighing up to 490,000 pounds. For takeoff and landing, it will require a 12,000 feet long runway.

Mojave’s Runway 12-30 is long enough, although it has weight restrictions far below what is required for the Stratolaunch carrier. Editor's Note: I wonder why Mr. Allen didn’t approach Orbital instead of SpaceX to provide the rocket for Stratolaunch. Antares would provide a similar lift capacity, and Orbital has hard-earned experience with air-launch systems. Maybe he did approach Orbital and they declined, knowing what they do about the complexity and limitations of such a system. (12/20)

Stratolaunch: SpaceShipThree or Space Goose? (Source: Space Review)
Last week Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen announced he was teaming up with Burt Rutan, Mike Griffin, and others to create Stratolaunch Systems, a new company developing an air launch system. Jeff Foust describes the company's launch concept and the issues that have generated skepticism in some quarters. Visit to view the article. (12/19)

ISS Next: Chasing Humanity's Future in Space and the "Next Logical Step" (Source: Space Review)
Missing from the debate about the future of NASA's human spaceflight efforts is one long-term question: what comes after the ISS? Roger Handberg argues that the failure to contemplate that question now could eventually mean ceding leadership in space station efforts to the Chinese. Visit to view the article. (12/19)

An About Face for Commercial Crew (Source: Space Review)
NASA appeared set to press ahead with more conventional contracts for the next phase of its commercial crew program, but last week the agency abruptly changed course and said it would go back to Space Act Agreements instead. Jeff Foust reports on the reasons for the change and the reactions from industry and government. Visit to view the article. (12/19)

Former Astronaut Tapped to Lead NASA Science Programs (Source:
A former astronaut best known for his work repairing the Hubble Space Telescope has been named NASA's new associate administrator for science. John Grunsfeld, a physicist currently working as the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, will take over as associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate on January 4. He succeeds Ed Weiler, who retired at the end of September. Grunsfeld flew on five shuttle missions, including three to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. (12/19)

With Pleiades in Orbit, Astrium Sets Sights on DigitalGlobe, GeoEye (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Astrium Geo-Information Services expects to make life more difficult for its two U.S. competitors starting in early 2012 once the Pleiades 1A high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite, which was launched Dec. 16, enters service. The identical Pleiades 1B satellite, which is already built, will not be launched before March 2013, to give the satellites’ owner, the French government, time to check out Pleiades 1A and confirm its performance. (12/19)

Lunar Telescope Tested on Earth (Source: MSNBC)
After a wild night on top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, researchers report that they've successfully tested the remote-control system for a prototype telescope that could someday be looking at the cosmos from the surface of the moon. The demonstration for the International Lunar Observatory precursor instrument, or ILO-X, came a day earlier than originally plannned, due to a wave of chilly, stormy weather that was sweeping over Hawaii. Temperatures on Mauna Kea reportedly dipped to 16 below zero Fahrenheit overnight. (12/20)

Propulsion Systems Names Teams to Address Key Propulsion Challenges (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems (NIRPS) at Marshall Space Flight Center, has named four expert teams to tackle a series of key challenges facing the rocket propulsion industrial base. NIRPS is being established to maintain the nation’s leadership in rocket and missile propulsion that is being threatened by industry downsizing, a shortage of new propulsion programs and the ability to attract and retain fresh talent.

The initial responsibilities of the strategy teams, announced at the Joint Army-Navy-NASA-Air Force (JANNAF) conference in Huntsville, Ala., include developing action plans to address the six critical focus areas, called “grand challenges,” NIRPS previously identified, as well as the long-term vision for the Institute. Click here. (12/20)

Wallops Spaceport to Get $4 Million in Virginia Budget (Source: Daily Press)
Gov. Bob McDonnell plans to spend $4 million to help finish building a new launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Announced Monday with the release of McDonnell's two-year budget for Virginia, the funding is subject to debate. But state lawmakers, touting potential economic development benefits, have generally been supportive of the spaceport.

"We should also be at the forefront of another growing part of the private sector: the space industry," McDonnell said in a statement issued by his office. In addition to the funding, McDonnell also said he wants to reorganize the authority. "We will introduce legislation to restructure the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and turn it into a true independent agency," that statement said.

That may include creating a nonprofit corporation, similar to how Virginia's marine terminals operate, to administer the spaceport. Such entities are not uncommon when quasi-state agencies mix with business, but open government proponents criticize them because they can shield the corporation from public view. "It leaves a bad taste in the mouth because the port authority hasn't been too forthcoming," said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. (12/19)

Science Center to Exhibit Shuttle's Tank, Boosters From KSC (Source: LA Times)
The California Science Center has won a new companion exhibit to the space shuttle Endeavour: the shuttle's external tank and twin solid rocket boosters. The tank –- the orange cylindrical structure affixed to the shuttle's belly at launch –- and twin solid rocket boosters had been displayed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

When the shuttle exhibit is assembled next year, it will be a challenge to ship the external tank from Florida. It is typically moved by barge, meaning it might have to be taken through the Panama Canal, said Science Center President Jeffrey N. Rudolph. "It's actually quite a bit longer than the shuttle," Rudolph said. The fuel tank is 153.8 feet long, compared with Endeavour's 122 feet.

Museum officials were happy about NASA's decision to give the tank and solid rocket boosters. But shipping will add to the $200 million they already must raise to transport the shuttle and build a new wing at the state-run museum in South Los Angeles. (12/20)

China Launches Communication Satellite for Nigeria (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully sent a Nigerian communication satellite into orbit with its Long March-3B carrier rocket from southwest Xichang spaceport on Tuesday. The satellite, produced by China Academy of Space Technology, will provide communication, broadcast, Internet connection, remote education and navigation services to parts of Africa, Europe and Asia. China will also provide monitoring and control services for the satellite and support its ground stations.

It was the third time China provided satellite launch service for foreign users this year, following the successful launch of two Pakistani communication satellites. China plans to launch four to five satellites for foreign users in 2012. (12/20)

Star Images Helping to Save Vatican Books (Source: ESA)
Antique books in the Vatican Library are being digitized to preserve them for future generations using a technique developed through ESA to store satellite images of the sky. The Library needed a way of scanning the delicate old manuscripts and storing the files so that they could still be read in hundreds of years. The answer was the special file format used by ESA for most of its scientific satellites. (12/19)

Catastrophe Looms as Toxic 13-Ton Mars Probe Falls to Earth (Source: Independent)
The heaviest interplanetary spacecraft ever launched is about to become one of the most dangerous man-made objects to fall from space when it crashes to the ground early in the new year. The Russian Phobos-Ground probe, weighing 13.2 tons and laden with 11 tons of toxic rocket fuel and 10kg of radioactive cobalt-57 will fall to Earth between 6 and 19 January. (12/20)

Now, Satellite Secrets Revealed to Layman (Source: Daily Bhaskar)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is sharing its knowledge regarding satellites with the common man. In a unique initiative to spread awareness about how a satellite works and affects our lives, ISRO has put a documentary film on its website. It can be downloaded by anyone who is interested in space science.

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C18) successfully launched the Indo-French Megha-Tropiques satellite into space in October. It is a joint endeavour of ISRO and the French National Space Agency, CNES, and is intended to study the water cycle and energy exchanges in the tropical region covering 20 degrees either side of the Equator. In simple terms, it will help the meteorological department forecast rainfall in a far more efficient manner. (12/20)

Air Force Wideband Global SATCOM to Launch Jan. 19 (Source: Florida Today)
An advanced military communications satellite is a step closer to launch now that engineers have finished installing it in the nosecone of the rocket that will loft it into orbit. The U.S. Air Force’s fourth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft is slated to launch Jan. 19 on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium rocket at Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window will open at 7:38 p.m. and close at 9:11 p.m. (12/20)

Soyuz Launch Wednesday Will Fill ISS Once Again (Source: Florida Today)
A multinational crew plans to rocket to the International Space Station this week, fully staffing the outpost before the arrival early next year of the first commercial spaceship to visit the complex. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko will be at the controls when a Soyuz FG rocket blasts off Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Flying with him: U.S. astronaut Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency. (12/20)

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